HELENA — The saying goes, ‘it’s a great day to be a Saint,’ and on Friday, it sure was. Less than a month after winning its first Frontier Conference Championship since 2014, the Carroll football team was fitted for championship rings.
“You’ll always have that sitting on your mantle and it’s something you can be very, very proud of,” Saints head coach Troy Purcell said. “You’ll remember the times on the field, in the locker room and the development of the brotherhood you developed at Carroll College. The memories and the friends and the people you met there and the people you’ll continue to have relationships with until the end of time. It’s pretty special when you have years like this.”
The Saints, who appeared in the NAIA Football Championship Series after winning the Frontier’s automatic bid, finished the shortened season 3-2 after falling to Morningside in the opening round. Nevertheless, Carroll got to send its seniors out with a trip to the playoffs and a fancy new ring.
“It really just shows the journey that we had and everything that we did across these four years,” Saints senior offensive lineman Tanner Steele said. “[For] us seniors, that everything mattered and it all came to this one point at the end where we did everything right and put in the work to be able to get to this point our senior year. It’s pretty special to lay the foundation for next year’s team and these guys coming up.”
The ring itself, which is produced by Jostens, has the words “Frontier Champions” on the top flanking a purple stone underneath a Carroll logo. Below that, on its respective sides of the ring, are the words “Fighting Saints” and “NAIA Playoffs”. Below that, on one side, will be the last name of the player or coach, a Carroll helmet and player position. On the other side, the year “2020-21” and a relief of Nelson Stadium with “C4” also present.
“It’s nice, it’s been something we’ve been working for every year,” Carroll senior offensive lineman Alex Hoffman said. “It’s cool to finally earn it...You always want to leave on a high note, so winning this year was nice, winning a conference championship.”
Friday also brought with it an opportunity for the Saints to take their team photo, have one final team meeting before summer and pass out a stack of awards, namely the recent all-conference selections, that have been piling up for Carroll this season.
“We talked about before the College of Idaho game, we go, ‘fellas, these could be the last days we ever spend together as a team,’” Carroll offensive coordinator Alex Pfannenstiel said. “It’s nice to get all the seniors back here and get the whole group of guys back together and hear us laugh and smile and have a good time together. Those awards come when you have team success and so it’s awesome to see all our guys that are all-conference and see what they did in the classroom with the academic all-conference, but that came with the team’s success.”
For Carroll’s seniors, their time with the program is drawing to a close as graduation and the world outside of college approaches. As is the cycle in collegiate athletics, however, their departure means a new crop of players is not far away.
“It’s bittersweet,” Purcell said of the day. “You see those seniors and those faces one more time and you’ll always be friends with them and have that relationship for the rest of your life. Seeing those seniors leave is always tough and then you got new, fresh blood coming in. We’ll have those 35 or so freshmen coming in next fall, so that’s exciting. Excited about the guys we have now. We’re a young team, they’re enthusiastic, they’re fired up.”
The expectation is it will take about three to four months for Carroll to receive its rings once the order is submitted. That is just in time to make sure it fits and to put it in a safe place ahead of a fall season that is already fast approaching.
Still, there is no denying the rings will stick out in a crowd.
“It looks good, really good,” Carroll quarterback Devan Bridgewater said.